'Incredibly honored': Indian American Sirisha Bandla to fly into space aboard Virgin Galactic flight

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Hindustan Times 02 July, 2021 - 10:19pm 12 views

Who is going to space with Jeff Bezos?

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson is aiming to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space by nine days. Branson's company announced Thursday evening that its next test flight will be July 11 and that its founder will be among the six people on board. Associated PressRichard Branson announces trip to space, ahead of Jeff Bezos

Indian American Sirisha Bandla will be one of the six space travellers aboard VSS Unity of Virgin Galactic’s founder Richard Branson, when it is scheduled to blast off on July 11 from New Mexico. As astronaut No 4, Sirisha Bandla's role will be that of a researcher experience. Sirisha Bandla and Beth Moses will be the two women crew members on the trip. The 34-year-old aeronautical engineer, who graduated from Purdue University, will be the second Indian-born woman to go into space after Kalpana Chawla and the fourth Indian to fly into space.

"I am so incredibly honored to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all," she tweeted along with a video of the crew.

Sirisha Bandla told Space.com last month that the Virgin Galactic flight will last anywhere between approximately 60 and 75 minutes and will take off and land back at Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Also read | Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to fly to space in July on Blue Origin flight

According to reports, Sirisha Bandla was born in Andhra Pradesh's Guntur and grew up in Houston, Texas. “I have always seen her zeal to achieve something big and finally, she is going to fulfil her dream. I am sure she will succeed in this mission and make the whole country proud,” Sirisha’s grandfather Bandla Ragaiah, an agricultural scientist from Janapdu village in Guntur district, was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.

I am so incredibly honored to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all. https://t.co/sPrYy1styc

Born to Dr Bandla Muralidhar, a scientist and a member of Senior Executive Services in the US government, and Bandla Anuradha, Sirisha’s grandfather said she has always been active and fearless, according to The New Indian Express.

Also read | In race to space, it's Branson's Virgin Galactic vs Bezos' Blue Origin

Bandla, who holds an MBA degree from Georgetown University, began her career at Virgin Galactic in 2015 as a government affairs manager and is now the vice president of government affairs for Richard Branson's company since January this year. She was also a part of the management team of the Washington operations for Virgin Orbit.

Bandla has worked for a space policy job at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas, as an aerospace engineer. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the American Astronautical Society and Future Space Leaders Foundation. She is also a member of Purdue University’s Young Professional Advisory Council.

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Blue Origin is Bezos’ space exploration company, taking on the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

“The ‘Unity 22’ mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and the company’s fourth crewed spaceflight,” Virgin Galactic said in the announcement.

“It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including the company’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, who will be testing the private astronaut experience.”

Bezos announced his intention to board the first manned Blue Origin flight on his Instagram where he said his brother would also be joining him.

“To see the Earth from space, that changes you, changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity,” Bezos said in the video.

“It's one Earth. I want to go on this flight because it's a thing I've wanted to do all my life. It's an adventure. It's a big deal for me.”

Blue Origin said the winning bid will be donated to its own foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM (*science, technology, engineering and maths) and help “invent the future of life in space”.

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Richard Branson to Beat Jeff Bezos as First Billionaire in Space by 9 Days

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now 04 July, 2021 - 04:12am

Sirisha Bandla, The Indian-American On Virgin Galactic's Space Mission

NDTV 04 July, 2021 - 04:12am

Sirisha Bandla (second from right) is the firm's vice president, government affairs & research ops.

On July 11, when billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, along with a crew, travels to the edge of space on a Virgin Galactic test flight, astronaut Sirisha Bandla will be taking care of the researcher experience on the Unity22 mission. And while the flight marks a key milestone in the area of private commercial space travel, Indians have a separate reason to cheer.

Sirisha Bandla, astronaut number 4 on the crew, was born in Andhra Pradesh and grew up in Houston. She is also the Vice President, Government Affairs and Research Operations at Virgin Galactic. 

"Indian-origin women continue to break the proverbial glass ceiling and prove their mettle," tweeted former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NN Chandrababu Naidu on Friday. "On July 11, Sirisha Bandla with Telugu roots is set to fly to space aboard VSS Unity with Richard Branson and the team marking the dawn of the new space age, making all Indians proud," the post read.

Mr Naidu shared two pictures - one featuring all five members of the crew and a solo photo of Ms Bandla. 

Indian-origin women continue to break the proverbial glass ceiling and prove their mettle. On July 11th, @SirishaBandla with Telugu roots is set to fly to space aboard VSS Unity with @RichardBranson and the team marking the dawn of the new space age, making all Indians proud! pic.twitter.com/oecuztDRBe

Soon after the Telugu Desam Party president's tweet, people not just congratulated Ms Bandla on her achievement but also acknowledged that it would encourage many more women to join the field. 

"Yes, sir. She is surely gonna make the land proud. More power to you Sirisha Bandla you will be an inspiration to many. Fly Colours," a user wrote.

Another said, "Encourage, educate and empower."

Encourage , educate and Empower ????????

Very proud To Hear that one

The same day, Ms Bandla, too, quote-tweeted a Virgin Galactic post carrying a video that featured all the crew members, including "astronaut number 1, Richard Branson."

"I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of the amazing crew of Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all," she said. 

I am so incredibly honored to be a part of the amazing crew of #Unity22, and to be a part of a company whose mission is to make space available to all. https://t.co/sPrYy1styc

In a subsequent tweet, the astronaut said that she was overwhelmed by messages of love.  "I really didn't need to tweet this since my friends flooded the feed yesterday with it. I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by messages of love, unrecognizable capital text, and positivity yesterday. Slowly working my way through them...One platform at a time," she wrote.

I really didn't need to tweet this since my friends flooded the feed yesterday with it❤️I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by messages of love, unrecognizable capital text, and positivity yesterday. Slowly working my way through them...one platform at a time!

In the introduction video shared by Virgin Galactic, Mr Branson said that he will be evaluating the customer spaceflight experience, adding that as the founder of the company, he was proud of the crew he has by his side as they fly to space. "This July our dream will become a reality and we are excited to share it with you all," he said. Not just that, Mr Branson also left people guessing about what he is going to announce when he returns. 

"When we return from space, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut. Because space belongs to us all. So watch this space," the billionaire said. 

The July 11 mission will be the twenty-second flight test for VSS Unity and Virgin Galactic's fourth crewed spaceflight, the company said on Friday. 

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